Practice innovations in mental health services to children and families: New directions for Massachusetts

Anita Lightburn, Smith College
Mary E. Olson, University of Massachusetts Medical School
Phebe Sessions, Smith College
Ellen Pulleyblank Coffey, Smith College

At the time of publication, Mary Olson was not yet affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.


This research report highlights selected findings that describe the characteristics of excellent,innovative programs for high‐risk children and adolescents in Massachusetts. The conclusions reported are based on interviews with administrators and providers at nine sites. A research consortium composed of policy makers, administrators, clinicians, and academic researchers recommended the site selections. The study describes a spectrum of innovative practices used to help youngsters in severe crises. Innovative practice was shaped by a common vision of doing treatment within family and community contexts, and coordinating overall care at all levels of the family's social and professional networks. Topics addressed include an examination of the core values directing these programs, the four distinct sub-types of design, therapeutic approaches, management, and evaluation. Obstacles to innovation are considered in light of current policy and practice limitations. The discussion concludes with a summary of the challenges and future directions for policy makers, funding agencies, program directors, and clinicians committed to addressing the current crisis in mental health care for children and youth.